The Prater Park, Vienna, where belching is against the law (Wikimedia Commons)

Vienna tops league table of world’s nicest (and most boring) cities

29 February 2016 | By David Rogers 1 Comment

Vienna has once more been named the city with the best quality of life for business professionals by Mercer Consulting, the world’s biggest human resources company.  

It headed a top 10 dominated by neighbouring cities in Germany and Switzerland, together with Auckland (3), Vancouver (5) and Sydney (10).  

The survey is intended to give multinational companies a reference point when deciding how to compensate staff for postings.

The further down the rankings a city is, the higher the hardship compensation will need to be for staff posted there.

The ranking addresses the physical risks staff are likely to face from crime and pollution, as well as the standards of healthcare, education, housing and leisure amenities they and their families will enjoy.

Here are the 10 nicest places to live, according to Mercer:

  1. Vienna
  2. Zürich
  3. Auckland
  4. Munich
  5. Vancouver
  6. Düsseldorf
  7. Frankfurt
  8. Geneva
  9. Copenhagen
  10. Sydney

Vienna, Zürich, Munich, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva and Copenhagen all benefit from political stability, a relatively affordable rental market for housing and excellent bars and restaurants.

Ulrike Hellenkamp, a senior Mercer consultant based in Hamburg, told Viennese website Die Press: “Since many expats take their family with them, security is the principal concern of the rankings. Austria has little crime, law enforcement is efficient and the social and political conditions are stable, so Vienna is very safe, by international standards.”

The high standards of public conduct expected in the Austrian capital were exemplified last week when a man was fined €70 for belching in the Prater Park (pictured).

However, some commentators in the press have expressed scepticism over whether Mercer Consulting’s ranking should be taken as a complete measure of quality of life. Markus Lust, a Viennese commentator on Vice news, pointed out that it could equally be seen as a league table of the most boring cities in the world.

He wrote: “It’s pretty hard to measure a city's soft skills such as how nice its people are, how easy it is to meet somebody new, how vibrant the nightlife is and where to go to get groceries on a Sunday. For Vienna, the answers are, in that order: not nice, not easy, not vibrant, and nowhere.”

In addition, another 2015 rankling of safe countries, produced by the public policy think tank the Legatum Institute, puts Hong Kong top of the personal safety league, followed by Ireland and all the countries in Scandinavia, with Austria in 16th position.

The Islamic State’s attacks on civilians in Paris on 13 November last year pushed that city down the league table from 10th to 37th place, but still ahead of London (39), which was judged the best city to live in in the UK.

Problems with crime placed most American cities below that level, with the exception of San Francisco (28), Boston (34) and Honolulu (35). The most dangerous city in the US was Detroit (70), which is still recovering from the trauma of de-industrialisation.

A clutch of southern cities, such as Dallas (63), Houston (65), Miami (66) and Atlanta (67), were ranked more or less equally, at about the same level as Belfast (64).

Despite the enormous spending on the urban environment, cities in the UAE come well down the list. Dubai is put in 75th spot, ahead of Abu Dhabi (81), and a long way ahead of Doha (110) and Kuwait City (124th). Any managers finding themselves posted to Riyadh (168) or Tehran (203) can expect a considerable salary uplift.

In the Asia Pacific region, most cities fall below the 100 mark, with the inevitable exception of Singapore (26) and the main Japanese urban centres, headed by Tokyo (44). Seoul makes it to 73rd spot, three behind Hong Kong, despite its notorious pollution and overcrowding, and Taipei is in 84th position. Mainland Chinese megalopolises are all considered hardship postings by Mercer. Shanghai (101) is the most pleasant, ahead of Beijing (118) and a long way ahead of Jilin (168) on the North Korean border.

Some cities are not listed at all, presumably because no business has any business there: Pyongyang and Kabul for instance. However a few centres that are located in warzones are listed: Baghdad comes bottom of the 230-city pile, and Damascus, in Syria, is in 224th position.

It is an indication of the level of hardship in Haiti, Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic that they each have major cities ranked below the Syrian capital despite not hosting an actual full-scale war.

Photograph: The Prater Park, Vienna, where belching is against the law (Wikimedia Commons)